Bespoke loafers with Seiji McCarthy: Commissioning and fitting 

Friday, December 15th 2023
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In Japan earlier this year I started the process of commissioning a pair of bespoke loafers from Seiji McCarthy

Loafers are often tricky to make bespoke, and bespoke as a whole I’ve found a little inconsistent, so why did I take this leap with Seiji? 

Largely it was because he offers something different - a particular love of American footwear such as that made popular by Alden, which he really understands and also executes beautifully. One of my favourite ever designs is the full-strap loafer from Alden on the Aberdeen last but it's never been a good fit for my feet. This was my opportunity to get a better version. 

(That's an example of Seiji's below, followed by my Aldens.)

But there were other reasons too. Seiji has ready-made models of his shoe that you can see in person, unlike some makers; he's an interesting one to cover because of that design angle and because he offers MTM and MTO alongside bespoke; and, a much underrated factor, we get along. 

Seiji is a little older, highly educated and professional. He studied at Stanford and the LSE before working for the NBA, leaving to study shoe design in Italy and then shoemaking. 

We're more similar, in terms of cultural background and education, then I am to most craftsmen, and I’ve found that's both nice and helpful: at a superficial level, the chat is better; at a deeper one, it's easier to discuss concerns with someone you relate to. 

I didn’t realise until we met in New York this past October that Seiji initially studied to be a shoe designer. He had thought his connections at the NBA might help as a market for the shoes. 

That didn't really work out. Turns out a young, financially flush sports star doesn't want to wait several months for a pair of dress shoes made by a brand no one has heard of.

But Seiji found his niche with bespoke shoemaking in Japan, where he lived in his twenties and returned to seven years ago (he has a Japanese mother and American father). He was also helped (as many bespoke makers have been) by Ethan Newton - the model of loafer I commissioned is even called the ‘Ethan’. 

Seiji has also just moved to a bigger workshop space (the photos here were taken at his old one) and has taken on two apprentices.

The initial measuring session (most pictures shown) was interesting, particularly Seiji's emphasis on tracing the profile of the foot (above). From a customer point of view though, the most practical thing was trying on sizing shoes (below). This really makes it easier to communicate issues of fit - almost like having two fittings rather than one.

When we had the actual fitting in New York this past October, the shoes looked good. As per my recent Ugolini article, I was specific about what worked well for me during both sessions: there needed to be enough room for those toes to move. 

Initially the shoes felt a little tight at the front, but Seiji ripped out part of the insole in order to lower my foot, and that was better. (Not that the final shoes will lack this insole - it was just a good way to see what room was needed.)

There was a little discussion about how much height to have over the big toe vs the others, given they are so much lower. To an extent you can shape the upper to give space to one and not the other, but it's also one piece of leather and will move around. In the end we opted for a little more room rather than less. 

And after the initial fitting, Seiji cut the shoe apart at various points (making it look like a woman’s sandal) in order to see where my foot was sitting inside. 

Not every shoemaker does this, but I did see the advantage here, as Seiji pointed out that my heel was sitting off the inner edge of the insole. He also showed me where you could see on my ready-made shoes that my heel rubbed on this part of the lining. 

Adjustments will be made, and I should have my final shoes early next year. 

On this experience I would certainly recommend Seiji, particularly given how hard loafers can be to fit. But I'll do a full piece next year. 

If anyone would like to read more about him, we also commissioned a feature from a Japan-based writer here in 2022. And there is a nice piece here on how Japanese shoemaking in general has changed in recent years. 

Seiji now travels to the US once a year for trunk shows - currently New York and San Francisco but with plans to add others in the future. 

Pricing and order types:

  • MTO/MTM starts from JPY 280k (includes lasted shoe trees)
  • MTM is the MTO base price plus an additional JPY 5k per adjusted area on the last
  • Bespoke starts from JPY 450k (also including lasted shoe trees)
  • This is ordering in Japan. Trunk show prices are around 15% higher. 
  • Due to delays coming out of Covid, as well as high demand, MTO/MTM delivery is one year and bespoke trial fitting is one year with delivery a year after that
  • But new apprentices are hoped to bring MTO/MTM delivery down to six months and bespoke trial fitting to six months and delivery six months after that

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Excellent read Simon, Seiji definitely stands out due to his approach in design, which may be a testament to his background.

Alden remains as my favourite loafer and boot option, the designs are perfectly balanced and fit the casual chic way I dress very well. My go to is a pair of worn out ivory chinos, t shirt and chunky knit, paired with cordovan tassel loafers or my full straps.

In this sense of dressing, what sort of outerwear options do you recommend?
I currently have a tweed balmacaan, heavy cotton jungle jacket and barbour jacket which are my most frequently worn.
I am looking to add something a bit more under the radar than the balmacaan, which will be suitable in the cold.

What do you think of a shearling, or Loro Piana traveller jacket?

Would be great to get your suggestions on this.


Hi Simon, i have two questions. The first is what are the fit issues your experience with the Aldens? The second relates to the statement ‘We’re more similar, in terms of cultural background and education’. Forgive but im not familiar with your own cultural and educational back and i wondered what aspects of it you felt akin to Seiji on?


That’s interesting. I find the Aberdeen an easy fit for my wider foot joint/narrow heel, whereas the EG Piccadilly (which I love the shape of) have me running home to take them off at the end of the day given the narrower toe box.


It is tighter across the front even for my C width (US), E width (UK), and the full strap even more so than the tassel, despite both being on the Aberdeen last.


Very nice Simon.
Pity he cannot yet visit London. We have such a limited bespoke shoe scene in the UK and it’s always nice when a new bespoke shoemaker start-up in the UK. Even a visiting shoemaker to the UK.
Anyways,I wish you well with this latest commission.

That Alex

Isn’t the U.K. bespoke shoe scene bigger than anywhere else in the world?
Can’t think where would be bigger. Interested to hear otherwise. France and Italy are surely smaller? Don’t know enough about Japan but would be surprised if it’s bigger, although i suspect it’s better.
Simon, can you answer this?


I feel your pain (no pun intended) regarding the the full strap. I was in NYC last month and the y were the only thing on my shopping list. The store on Madison didn’t have my size in colour 8, so I decided to try on a calf version just to check the fit and size. They didn’t feel great, particularly around the little toe area. Do you think the ‘feel’ of the shoe could be different in cordovan? Also, have you tried stretching yours to make them more comfortable?
With regards to these shoes they look absolutely wonderful. But I feel like they are their own thing as they are bit more elegant than the Alden version. I would still be keen to have a look at MTO/MTO if Seiji ever comes to London.

Il Pennacchio

The widest width that the Alden store on Madison keeps on site are E width, but wider widths are available MTM.


Thank you for pointing that out. Although I always feel hesitant doing MTO if I haven’t tried the width before

Paul H

Looks like a great project! Curious if you’ve opted for a longer vamp on your version from Seiji vs the Alden Full Strap. That’s my one dislike about the Aldens.


Thanks for the detailed write up, Simon. I’ve had the same experience with Dimitri Gomez in Paris of the upper being cut open on a trial shoe to see how the toes look inside whilst wearing it. It made a lot of sense to me at the time and the shoes have proven to remain comfortable six years down the line.


Looks very promising Simon, nice!

I accidentally came across this video yesterday and I thought readers of this website (and the comments section under this article in particular) might enjoy it as much as I did:

Don’t know anything about the maker but he’s clearly very skilled

Dan G

Thank you for sharing this. The degree of skill and artistry is truly astonishing.

Matt L

I was wondering how you felt about the colour? Alden’s famously dyes their Color 8’s an additional time after they come from the tannery. I can’t quite tell from the photos here if Seiji McCarthy has used the same extra-dyed cordovan. Are they the same? And if not would you miss the darker colour? I remember in one of your posts about cold-colour dressing you commented that the darkness of the Aldens was something vital to that look.

Matt L

I’d love an update in a year or two! I like everything about those loafers apart from the fact they don’t make them in my size.


Hi Simon,
If you already owned some of the basic RTW shoes, including black oxfords, brown calf and suede loafers, suede chukkas, and maybe a pair of cordovan loafers, what would you recommend as a first bespoke commission and why? (And maybe second as well!)


When it comes to shoes what does ‘made to measure’ mean? Does it mean the shoes are made to an existing design but on a custom last? If so, is it subject to the usual risks of bespoke shoemaking in terms of fit?


I also feel strongly about the Aberdeen last. I had just purchased the full strap loafer in black cordovan in a 14C from Alden Madison (as an NYC local), and everything is great except for the width around the toe joints. The first day I wore them was unbearable, but now it’s just “tolerable for a few hours.” Albeit, I love the silhouette of it, and would absolutely get a color 8 cordovan, but perhaps in a wider fitting. I got the 14C because they were trying to get rid of it so I got for a 20% discount haha